Deep Maps

Deep Maps

Deep Maps

Deep Maps: West Cork Coastal Cultures

From the mid-eighteenth century onwards, there exists a rich record of cultural engagements with places along the Atlantic littoral: responses in different cultural media by individuals drawn to the unique cultural and biological aspects of a unique maritime environment. The romantic period in particular sees a diverse range of such literary texts in the form of translations, original poems, tales and novels; as well as a significant body of sketches and paintings of sea and land. The enormous impact of the Great Famine on this coastline drew further attention to the area from writers, journalists, artists and illustrators. Later in nineteenth century, an important photographic record emerges, now preserved within the National Photographic Archive. Such texts capture information related to reefs, sea cliffs and vegetation; as well as representing such practices as farming, fishing and seal-hunting; and depicting historical processes including land use, work, family life and migration.

Writers, folklorists and painters who were drawn to Ireland’s south-west coast in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries encountered its particularities at a time before our modern division of the disciplines. In joining the research skills of a cultural historian with those of a marine biologist, the project promises to reconnect aspects of this maritime environment that are often disconnected in modern debates. In doing so, it responds to needs emerging from both humanities and science research: in the case of the former, the environmental humanities have posed urgent new questions about the scope and scale of human interactions with the environment as represented in literary and other texts; while in the case of marine biology, scientists are increasingly aware of the need to deepen and enrich their apprehension of marine environments via a more nuanced sense of the histories and cultures of these storied places. 

If you would like to learn more about our project you can visit our website here


Aims and objectives

The project investigates the biological, cultural and historical context of the south west coast of Ireland from 1700 to 1920. The focus is on the rich maritime environment found along the arc of Cork’s Roaring Water Bay, from Clonakilty to Bantry Bay, as it is shaped by sea and land and as it is imagined within eighteenth- and nineteenth-century cultural texts. The period to be researched begins with the emergence of wide-ranging antiquarian inquiries and poetic responses to the Cork coast and ends with the start of serious biological field research in this area. By advancing a transdisciplinary understanding of this coastline, the project forms a link between cultural history, scientific research and environmental priorities while communicating a sense of cultural identity and fostering ownership of maritime heritage.


Information and updates on the Deep Maps project can be found on the project homepage:

English Department

Roinn an Bhéarla

O'Rahilly Building, University College Cork, Cork. Ireland